Trump Confirms There’s No “Phase Two”

SK Ashby
Written by SK Ashby

Referring to Trump's "biggest and greatest deal" with China as "phase one" was always a little misleading because it implied there would be more than one phase.

We knew there wouldn't be, but Trump himself has now seemingly closed the door on it.

Trump says he won't negotiate another deal because of the coronavirus.

President Donald Trump on Friday said there was no possibility of a second trade deal with China. "I don't think about it now. The relationship with China has been severely damaged," Trump said, in a conversation with reporters on Air Force One on a flight to Florida. The president blamed the pandemic for the breach in bilateral ties. "They could have stopped it. They didn't," he said, according to the pool report of the conversation.

At the time his "greatest deal" was signed early this year, Trump was praising China's handling of the novel coronavirus and specifically the actions of President Xi Jinping. And beyond that, Trump continued to say the virus was not a threat for nearly three additional months.

To say he won't talk to China now because of the pandemic is a convenient excuse, but the truth is a larger trade deal was never much of a possibility even before the virus existed. A hypothetical "phase two" would have required deep ideological concessions on the part of China's ruling party, not just a surface dressing of buying more American soybeans. That itself would have required reciprocal concessions by Trump that he was never willing to consider. Trump's idea of a "deal" is that he gets everything and you get nothing.

Logistically, there's also no time left for another phase. It took nearly two years beyond Trump's first tariffs on foreign metal in the spring of 2018 for his crack team to come up with the measly "phase one" which has been effectively canceled out by their bungled response to the pandemic.

Suffice to say, if Trump is removed from office we'll essentially be starting over under the previous status quo with China that existed in 2017 before Trump's trade war began.

That is an acceptable outcome. I'm not going to say our trading relationship with China is perfect and requires no further examination, but the long process of recovering from Trump and the virus is no time to fight a losing battle that ultimately comes down to corporate ideology more than hard economics. Economics tells us to get as many people back to work and back to shopping as quickly as possible with no unnecessary roadblocks like a 25 percent tax (tariff) on common household goods that leads to no tangible gains even for the intended industries. Some small factory in the plains adding a dozen jobs because a tariff artificially inflated their demand is completely insignificant in an economy with nearly 33 million people currently on unemployment.